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Europe

London's Grenfell fire tragedy raises fears over other buildings

© Niklas Halle'n, AFP | The burned-out shell of the Grenfell Tower block in North Kensington, London on June 20, 2017.

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2017-06-22

Some 600 buildings in England could have been fitted with flammable external panels like the ones believed to have contributed to a fire that killed at least 79 people in a London tower block, Prime Minister Theresa May’s Downing Street office said.

Government facilities testing cladding have so far found three tower blocks to have combustible panels. The testing came after local authorities submitted samples following the June 14 fire at Grenfell Tower in north Kensington.

Police and fire officials are trying to determine whether the aluminum composite panels contributed to the rapid spread of the blaze, which engulfed the 24-story building in less than an hour.

“A number of these tests have come back as combustible,” May said. “The relevant local authorities and local fire services have been informed, and, as I speak, they are taking all possible steps to ensure buildings are safe and to inform affected residents.”

May encouraged the owners, both public and private, of tower blocks around the country to quickly forward samples of any similar material for testing. The government will work with local authorities to make sure any dangerous material is removed and residents are safe, she said.

The Department for Communities and Local Government said it would not identify the buildings with combustible panels until landlords have had the opportunity to inform tenants.

Opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn called for urgent checks on around 4,000 buildings as Britain comes to grips with the potential ramifications of the disaster. Thousands need urgent assurances about their own safety, he said.

“At least 79 people are dead — it is both a tragedy and an outrage because every single one of those deaths could and should have been avoided,” Corbyn said.

Corbyn compared the tragedy to the 1989 Hillsborough disaster in which 96 people were killed in the crush of a crowded soccer stadium, and recent sexual abuse scandals involving vulnerable children, arguing that the government had long turned a blind eye to the needs of the poor.

“The pattern is consistent: working-class people’s voices are ignored, their concerns dismissed by those in power,” he said.

May has apologised for mistakes that were made in the aftermath of the Grenfell Tower tragedy and promised that “no stone will be left unturned” in a public inquiry into its causes.

“For any guilty parties there will be nowhere to hide,” she said.

May’s comments came after the resignation of the top administrative official in the local government that serves the community devastated by the fire. Local residents and the central government have criticized the response to the tragedy.

Nicholas Holgate, chief executive of the Kensington and Chelsea council, had come under intense pressure following last week’s blaze. The first few days after the fire were marked by chaos on the ground as local authorities struggled to deal with the hundreds of people who were displaced.

Survivors who had lost everything found it hard to get find information about missing loved ones or the services available to help them get back on their feet.

(FRANCE 24 with AP)

Date created : 2017-06-22

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